State mum on George contractor’s compliance with building laws 

Construction industry’s regulatory authorities and government have refused to disclose the compliance status of the company behind the building that collapsed and killed 34 people in George in the Western Cape.  

By law construction companies need to be registered with and cleared by various entities before they can undertake building projects.  

However, this week the NHBRC, the Compensation Fund and the Department of Labour remained mum on the credentials of the companies namely Liatel Developments and Neo Trend Group.  

Only the Construction Industry Development Board (CIBD) confirmed that the two companies were not registered on their database.  

 Their refusal to disclose whether the companies were compliant comes after Minister of Public Works Sihle Zikalala announced that the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) is investigating a previous complaint against Athol Mitchell of Mitchell and Associates, the company responsible for the civil and structural engineering at the site. 

 According to CIDB spokesperson Kotli Molise, neither the contractor nor the developer have registered with the organisation.  

However, Molise noted that contractors do not need to register with the CIDB to work on private sector construction projects. 

She added that the CIDB was part of the public works and infrastructure team that is supporting the Department of Employment and Labour in the building collapse. 

“The CIDB doesn’t wish to speculate on the building collapse at this stage, as investigations into the matter by the relevant authorities are still ongoing.  

“Generally, building failures of this nature are the result of a combination of factors, ranging from poor designs, site investigations, or poor construction,” said Molise. 

Strangely, NHBRC did not respond to a Sunday World inquiry on whether the companies were registered with it. 

The Department of Employment and Labour could not also confirm whether the companies are registered for the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Disease, and Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF). 

It also failed to divulge if the companies were issued with a construction permit.  

Spokesperson Teboho Thejane stated that the labour department will be in a position to comment once the site has been officially handed over to the department. 

UIF spokesperson Trevor Hattingh also declined to disclose whether the employees were registered to obtain the benefits.  

“At this stage, we are still trying to establish who all the contractors and subcontractors involved in the project are. 

“Once this information is obtained, we will be in a position to respond substantively and give a birds-eye view in respect of your inquiry.” 

The Compensation Fund did not respond to Sunday World’s questions on whether the construction project was registered with the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Disease (Coid).  

Black Business Council deputy president Gregory Mofokeng, however, highlighted that for a construction project to start, a company needs to get a construction permit from the labour department.  

Mofokeng, however, questioned whether the company was registered for Coid.  

“If they weren’t Coid-registered, then it is a problem because you cannot have a construction site when you are not Coid-registered. 

He stated that as some of the employees were undocumented immigrants, this meant they were not covered by Coid registration and therefore would not be compensated for their injuries or loss of life. 

Mofokeng was concerned that the current legislation allowed construction companies in the private sector not to be CIDB-compliant. 

 “There are serious legislative loopholes. We must ensure that the CIDB Act also applies to projects in the private sector.  

“When you do work with the public sector, you need to be fully compliant in terms of UIF, Coid, etc,” Mofokeng said. 

Liatel Developments director Theuns Kruger said the company, which was contracted by Neo Trend Group to carry out the construction, had not responded to specific questions sent to him by the Sunday World 

Kruger said he couldn’t respond comprehensibly as an investigation was ongoing.  

“It is regrettable that the answers will take some time to address as they are dependent on what the investigations reveal,” said Kruger. 

“Liatel is aware that the identification of the victims who have tragically lost their lives is still underway by investigators who are diligently following their protocols in this process. 

He stated that his company will reach out to all victims and their families at the right time. 

4Front Safety and Security Consultants, owned by Les Stephens and his wife Veronica, a company tasked with overseeing occupational health and safety measures in the project, also refused to comment. 

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